AHP allows hunters to blunder about in new territory

By Jayson Jacoby November 11, 2011 08:10 pm



I’d like to publicly thank Oregon's Access & Habitat Program (AHP) for greatly expanding the geographic range in which I can embarrass myself as a hunter.

Used to be I had to flaunt my failures mainly on public land.

The AHP, though, has allowed me to show off my repertoire to an entirely new audience of amused elk and various upland game birds.

I am, if I may be allowed a brief interlude of immodesty, the ideal hunter.

I pay the same fees as everyone else for licenses and tags, yet I don’t actually consume any wildlife resources.

(Actually, the licenses and tags are usually birthday gifts from my in-laws, but my point stands.)
This leaves more animals for all the people who can track game and shoot straight.

It’s sort of like if I paid property taxes but never called the police, never turned on a faucet or flushed a toilet, never had a fire on my place, or enrolled any kids in the public schools.

I hope the skilled hunters appreciate me.

If every hunter killed a bull every fall, the state wouldn’t be able to sell nearly as many tags as it does.

It’s as if the state is running a casino and I'm the rube — the guy who doesn't know blackjack from roulette — the owners count on to keep their margins healthy.

(Of course Oregon does run a casino, only it calls it the Lottery.)

Enabling me to blunder about in new places is hardly the only reason to celebrate the AHP, of course.

It is that rarest breed: a government program paid for exclusively by the people who benefit from it.

The AHP budget has two main sources:

• A $4 surcharge on hunting licenses

• The auction each year of 10 elk and 10 deer tags

The program is elegant in its simplicity.

Private property owners receive cash payments in exchange for allowing people to hunt on their property.
That’s the “access” part.

AHP also contributes money to improve wildlife habitat on private land.

The access side of the program gets more publicity.

This is hardly surprising.

A hunter, after all, might be pleased to learn that a parcel of private property will grow more grass to feed elk and deer that perhaps will wander onto some public land.

But tell that hunter he can hunt on the private parcel, and he’ll start checking his gear and making room in the freezer for fresh meat.
In Baker County, the Lookout Mountain unit has been the main recipient of AHP dollars.

Which makes sense — among the county’s four units, Lookout Mountain has the highest percentage of private land, at 62 percent.

(The other three: Sumpter, 55 percent private; Keating, 42 percent ; Pine Creek, 24 percent.)
Yet tallying the acres of private land that AHP has opened to hunters (from Aug. 1 through Jan. 1, in most cases) tells only part of the tale.

In some places — again, the Lookout Mountain offers a proximate example — AHP is affording hunters access not only to previously off-limits private land, but also to “islands” of public property.

These islands are perhaps the most annoying result of the sometimes haphazard geography of private and public land in the rural West.

What happens is that the public, lacking an easement across the surrounding sea of private land, can’t get to the atolls of public property without trespassing.

Except maybe for a really accomplished pole vaulter.

This is sort of like putting City Hall on the fourth fairway of a country club.

Or, more to the point as regards the AHP, its akin to herding wildlife into a pen ringed with electrified fence and then twisting the voltage to the “well done” setting.

Jayson Jacoby is editor of the Baker City Herald.